Academic journal article College Student Journal

College Student-Athlete Wellness: An Integrative Outreach Model

Academic journal article College Student Journal

College Student-Athlete Wellness: An Integrative Outreach Model

Article excerpt

College student-athletes face unique stressors that can contribute to compromised well-being. Additionally, there are a variety of barriers that prevent student-athletes from accessing mental health supports. This study used self-report questionnaires and qualitative interviews to examine the impact of an integrative outreach model that incorporated mental health education, sport psychology concepts, and mental skill techniques, on awareness and attitudes related to mental health and counseling. Findings indicate that this model may be effective in increasing awareness of mental health supports, reducing stigma, and development of performance enhancement and self-care skills.

Keywords; mental skills, student-athletes, counseling

Background

There is a growing literature base that illustrates the unique stressors and mental health challenges faced by college student-athletes. College student-athletes have historically been a special population underrepresented within college counseling centers (Valentine & Taub, 1999). The unique nature of the student-athlete population presents challenges and stressors related to athletic status that can lead to compromised well-being. Research indicates that between 10-15% of student-athletes have clinical needs significant enough to warrant counseling services (Watson & Kissinger, 2007, Parcover, Mettrick, Parcover, & Griffin-Smith, 2009).

Among the common stressors that student-athletes experience are the loss of the "star status" that they may have experienced in High School, potential of being benched (Wilson & Pritchard, 2005), injuries (Parham, 1993, Wilson & Pritchard, 2005), maintaining eligibility with full course loads (Birky, 2007), balancing social and leisure activities, and interpersonal challenges (Parcover, et al., 2009, Parham, 1993). In fact, "athletic participation in itself can become an additional stressor that traditional college students do not experience" (Wilson & Pritchard, 2005). Additionally, extensive time demands can play a significant role in the stress that student-athletes experience. Balancing the substantial time demands that student-athletes must devote to practice and participation can pose problems that can lead to increased susceptibility to mental and physical exhaustion (Ferrante, Etzel, & Lantz, 1996). These factors are particularly relevant when considering that stress can exacerbate existing mental health conditions (Thompson & Sherman, 2007). Further compounding the mental health and stress challenges faced by student-athletes is the fact that "college athletes who experience high levels of stress are more likely to practice bad health habits" (Wilson & Pritchard, 2005).

The provision of services and supports to student-athletes can be complicated by a variety of barriers unique to the population of student-athletes. Often student-athletes experience a sense of celebrity status due to their participation in athletics, and thus may avoid seeking support from campus resources for fear of jeopardizing their image (Ferrante, et al., 1996). Additionally, practical limitations such as demands of academic schedules, travel, practices, and game preparation and participation, can significantly restrict opportunities for student-athletes to seek services (Watson, 2006). Perhaps most significantly, attitudes related to help-seeking and perceived stigma associated with counseling services by student-athletes can be significant barriers to accessing supports. Many student-athletes perceive needing help as a sign of weakness, which can be contradictory to the attitudes valuing strength and self-reliance that are often promoted through athletics (Birky, 2007). The social stigma associated with mental health counseling can lead to negative perceptions of help-seeking behaviors. These perceptions "might be a contributing factor to the underutilization of college and university counseling centers among this population" as student-athletes are "apprehensive of being stigmatized by coaches, teammates, student peers, and fans" (Watson, 2005). …

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